Six in ten (58%) UK businesses are now connected to the web, 21% up on the figure recorded last July when it stood at 48%.

The surge was reported yesterday by the Business Internet Survey (Wave 8) from NOP Business. According to the study, most major UK companies have had a web presence for some time – so growth was fuelled almost entirely by smaller businesses with under ten staff. The 27% expansion equates to 100,000 small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) going online during the period.

Despite the take-up by SMEs, there is a growing disparity between the minnows and their larger corporate cousins. The latter harness e-business and e-commerce opportunities on a far larger scale and with greater zest. Large companies also view these activities as key to their companies’ success.

For most SMEs, web searches and email are the primary uses. In the majority of such companies, e-commerce remains little more than an aspiration.

Of those SMEs remaining unwired 21% claim they intend to connect within the next twelve months, citing as their main reasons “the need to keep up with other businesses” and an ambition to sell online.

Comments NOP Business Internet Project Manager Carl Geraghty: “Steady growth in internet uptake among businesses looks set to continue … [but] given that only a minority … currently see e-business as critical to success – and these generally in the mid to large corporate sector – the challenge remains to encourage the SME market to use the internet for more than just information searches and e-mail."

The study was conducted between February and April 2001, screening 13,332 UK businesses with 1025 follow-up telephone interviews both with internet users and non-users.

News source: Daily Research News Online